My mother had a rule while travelling: if an attraction had a star in the AAA Tourbook, we had to stop. Why would we leave a town without seeing everything the editors thought was worth a star? We moved quick, and we saw everything. On a 3- or 4-day trip to the Bay Area in my early teens, we saw Fisherman’s Wharf, Muir Woods, Alcatraz, Berkeley, the wine country, Stanford, The Winchester Mystery House, and Point Reyes. She loved it all. (In tribute to her far-reaching enthusiasms her ashes were scattered in many parts of the country and world, my bit near the lighthouse at Point Reyes.)

Jay’s family vacations were different. His mom said nobody on his dad’s side of the family was ever caught doing anything in a hurry. They went to the beach and made an entire day out of it. The pace was slower.

You can see where this is going. Jay and I had worked out our life together—quiet mornings reading the paper alternating with museums or nature, a balance of our patterns that was a nice mix. But that life is gone, and now we have to figure out how to pace our life with kids.

On the one hand, our daughter’s anxiety argues for some busyness. We’re not done with one event when she wants to know what’s next. On her birthday, she was waiting by the gate 4 hours before the first kid was scheduled to arrive. We can’t finish a visit to somewhere (like the charming Children’s Fairyland–thanks for the great photo Kenny!) before she says “Can we come back here?” and gets quite agitated if we don’t promise we really, really will. She’s had a raw deal up until now, and she’s determined to have some fun while it lasts. And of course keeping busy she hopes to outrun whatever feelings she has about how life’s been so far. It’s so interesting to see how the kids we have just can’t be an accident, there are so many ways they mirror us!

On the other hand, even I can’t take the constant motion. I gave up visiting every star in the AAA book a long time ago, won over by the argument that sometimes you’ve got to swing in the hammock or stare at the sea. And of course, part of our job is to help our daughter be more comfortable in her own skin. We need a little boredom, routine, quiet, in order to settle in as a family.

Yet it’s hard. The distractions prove so successful, and we have so much less drama when we’re running around doing the entertainments. And I do enjoy it. But it’s wearing us out, so while we had an outing today, we also tried a home project: sewing a little doll from an old towel.

I’m glad we did it. One day I’ll tell you how much fun I had doing our first needle-and-thread project together. It’ll be partially a lie. She was bored after 10 minutes, and I did most of the stupid project myself while she needled me about why it wasn’t done yet. But it wasn’t a complete disaster: It was nice being home, trying something new with the kids. And she’d be asking about why something isn’t some way, why not a project. Next time she may participate a little more. It’s a goal worth having.

Oh, and the doll, ripped off from an Ugly Doll design we saw a picture of, turned out ok!

And our daughter’s whining and fake crying is decreasing; she’s taking some of her more dramatic outbursts less seriously. She stomped upstairs at one point today, but came back down in a sparkly tutu. That’s a meltdown I can support, with glitter and costumes. That’s living!

So perhaps we’ve got a way to go before we find our natural pace as a family, but the progress is good!